McDonald's and its more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants still bring in more revenue than any other fast-food chain. But Chick-fil-A is pulling in more cash the Golden Arches — and every other big fast-food chain — on a store-by-store basis.
In a new ranking of the country's 50 largest fast-food restaurants released by QSR magazine on Monday, the average Chick-fil-A restaurant is listed as doing $3 million in sales in 2014, higher than every other restaurant on the list. The average McDonald's made $2.5 million.
In terms of overall revenue, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A climbed to eighth place, and is now larger than every pizza brand in America, despite having a minimal presence in the Northeast and closing all its stores on Sundays.
Despite expanding to more than 1,900 locations, the chicken chain "has a lot of white space ahead of it — there are still plenty of U.S. markets where Chick-fil-A has yet to open," QSR magazine editor Sam Oches told BuzzFeed News. "As it continues to expand across the country, I suspect it will continue to grow in leaps and bounds."
Chick-fil-A recently ranked as the most popular fast-food chain in the American Customer Satisfaction Index's Annual Restaurant Survey, followed by Chipotle and Panera.
The fast-food landscape is slowly evolving. Here are some of the other changes in the top 10 list of largest restaurants, based on sales volume.
These were the 10 largest fast-food chains in 2014.
These were the 10 largest in 2013.
Notably, Subway fell to third on the list for the first time since 2008. Despite adding more than 700 U.S. stores last year, sales fell by more than $800 million (about 6.6%) compared to 2013, according to QSR. "The company might at last be bumping back against some market saturation," according to the report.
Subway "thrived in the recession as not only a cheap and easy dine-out occasion for cash-strapped customers, but also as a great investment for business owners who were looking for a safe bet in a difficult economic climate," said Oches. "Now that the economy is much stronger, customers are more and more flocking to high-quality restaurant experiences," including other sandwich chains like Firehouse Subs, Which Wich, and Jersey Mike's.
Replacing Subway in the number two spot was cafe chain Starbucks, which grew U.S. sales by more than $900 million in 2014 with an expanded food menu, new breakfast sandwiches, and successful new beverage launches.
The so-called "fast-casual" segment, or the upscale fast food chains, have been growing for years now and continued to made noteworthy gains in 2014. The largest among them, Panera Bread, took KFC's place at No. 10 — this is the first time a fast-casual chain broke QSR's top 10. Burrito chain Chipotle moved up to 14th.
McDonald's has more than 14,000 U.S. stores. An earlier version incorrectly said 12,800 restaurants.
Venessa Wong is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Wong covers the food industry.
Contact Venessa Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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